This New Years article in the companion piece to our Christmas page. Both have been researched by Kenneth Hoeck.
For more information on the true Biblical New Year, please study our BIBLICAL CALENDAR page.
The Truth About New Years
New Year’s Day is the first day of the year, in the Gregorian calendar, falling exactly one week after the [pagan] Christmas Day of the previous year. The celebration of the new year is the oldest of all pagan holidays. Observing the end of one year and the start of a new one is an age-old religious, social, and cultural observance in all parts of the world. “There is scarcely a people, ancient or modem, savage or civilized which has not observed it…in one form or another. Yet no other festival has been celebrated on so many different dates or in so many seemingly different ways.” [Theodor H. Gaster, “New Year”]
It was first observed in ancient Babylon about 4000 years ago with the new moon closest to the spring equinox, usually mid-March to kick off the next cycle of planting and harvest. Symbolically, the king was stripped of his robes and went away for a few days while the people whooped it up. He then returned in all his finery for a grand parade, and the normal activities of life would return for the new year.
For the Egyptians, Phoenicians, Assyrians and Persians the day was celebrated on the autumnal equinox, which now falls on about 23 September. For the Greeks it was celebrated with the winter solstice, which now falls on about 21 or 22 December. It is the same for South India for the Tamil New Year. The Chinese New Year is celebrated for one month and begins in late January or early February. In Japan, the New Year festivities take place on 1-3 January. The Jewish New Year, called Rosh Hashana, is sometimes called the “feast of the trumpets.” It starts on the first day of the month of Tishri, which may begin anytime from 6 Sept to 5 October [which is the seventh month of the biblical calendar.] In most parts of Europe in the Middle Ages, 25 March (the feast of the Annunciation) was celebrated as New Year’s Day until the adoption of the Gregorian calendar. At one time England started the year on 25 December with the solstice.
The bible shows the new year to be on the new moon of the month of The Abib [aviv] which usually occurs in the spring around March or April. Exodus 12:1-2 And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying. This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. [ref Exodus 13:4; Exodus 23:15; Exodus 34:18; Deuteronomy 16:1] There is no celebration other than a new moon (month) observance to mark this biblical new year.
So how did we get to January 1 as the start of the year? During the early Roman republic 1 March began a new year, but after 153 BC the date was changed to 1 January. Rather than tie the day to some significant astronomical or agricultural event, in 153 BC the Romans selected it for civil reasons. It was the day after elections in which the newly elected assumed their positions.
Years later, Roman Emperor Julius Caesar wanted to change the date to a more logical date[an equinox or solstice] but that year, January 1, 45 BC was the date of a new moon. To change it would have been bad luck in the minds of the pagan Romans. Caesar established his own calendar “Julian” calendar in 46 BC and, finally, was first to establish January 1st as “New Year’s Day”. As the Romans moved their New Year’s Day backward almost three months to January 1, we have irregularities in our calendar. The months of September, October, November and December, originally mean, the seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth month respectively.
Janus was the Roman god of doors and gates, and had two faces, one looking forward, and one back symbolizing a break between the old and new. Caesar felt that the month named after this god (“January”) would be the appropriate “door” to the year. Caesar celebrated the first January 1st New Year by ordering the violent, and reputedly quite bloody, routing of “revolutionary Jewish forces” in the Galilee. In later years, Roman pagans observed the New Year by engaging in drunken orgies — a ritual they believed constituted a personal re-enacting of the chaotic world that existed before ‘the cosmos was ordered by the gods’. These were the same “Saturnalia” and “Kalends” celebrations that were associated also with what became ‘Christmas.”
The Greeks used a baby Dionysus or Bacchus [the Greek god of wine] in a basket to represent the spirit of fertility and an old man with a scythe, Father Time, to represent the passing. Christians adopted the former symbol as the birth of the baby Jesus and continued what started as a pagan ritual. Theodor H. Gaster writes, “Actually the New Year babe is FAR OLDER than he looks. In ancient Greece, it was customary at the great festival of Dionysus to parade a babe cradled in a winnowing basket.This was taken to symbolize the annual (or periodic) rebirth of that god as the spirit of fertility!” (New Year.) The image of the old man Time comes from several sources, including the Holly King (the Celtic god of the dying year) and Chronos [Kronos] (the Greek god of time). Today the New Year’s symbols are the same: newborn baby starting the next year and an old man winding up the last year.
As time progressed, the church did not like the idea of January 1 being the new year, and in 567 A.D. the council of Tours declared that year start should be reverted back to March. They used March 25 as the beginning of the year. This practice continued until Gregorian reform in 1582 A.D.
In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII ordered a new calendar (the GregorianCalendar) to replace the old Julian Calendar. The new calendar called for New Year’s Day to be celebrated Jan. 1. The Gregorian calendar was adopted by Catholic countries immediately while the reformists, suspect of any papal policy only adapted it after some time. Up unto 1582, Christian Europe continued to celebrate New Years Day on March 25. (This is closer to the actual biblical new year timing of the new moon of the abib.) In fact, some European countries held out for centuries (Scotland until 1660; Germany, Denmark, and Norway until 1700; and England until 1752). Today most countries around the world have adopted this calendaring system.
The Romans renamed Quintilis (5th month) to honor Julius Caesar, giving us July. The next month, Sextilis, was renamed August to honor the emperor Augustus Caesar. Augustus moved a day from February to August to make August as long as July.
“The opening of spring was a natural beginning, and In the Bible itself there is a close relationship between the beginning of the year and the seasons. The ancient Roman year began in March, but Julius Caesar, in correcting the calendar (46 B.C.) made January the first month. Though this custom has been universally adopted among Christian nations, the names, September. October, November, and December (i e , the seventh, eight, ninth, and tenth), remind us of the past, when March began the year. Christian writers and councils condemned the heathen orgies and excesses connected with the festival of the Saturnalia, which were celebrated at the beginning of the year: Tertullian blames Christians who regarded the customary presents — called strenae (Fr. etrennes) from the goddess Strenia, who presided over New Year’s Day (cf. Ovid, Fasti, 185-90) — as mere tokens of friendly intercourse (De Idol xiv).” – New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia
“On the Roman New Year (January 1). houses were decorated with greenery and lights, and gifts were given to children and the poor. To these observances were added the German and Celtic Yule rites Food and good fellowship, the Yule log and Yule cakes, greenery and fir trees, gifts and greetings all commemorated different aspects of this festive season. Fires and lights, symbols of warmth and lasting life, have always been associated with the winter festival, both pagan and Christian” (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edition, Micropaedia, Vol. II, p. 903, “Christmas”).
These and other winter festivities continued through January 1, the festival of Kalends, when Romans marked the day of the new moon and the first day of the month and year. (MSN Encarta Encyclopedia (online). Deluxe Edition, article: Christmas, section II. Origins of Christmas) “Because gift-giving was so essential a part of the pagan celebrations[of Saturnalia], the early Church frowned upon it as sternly as upon other and more questionable New Year celebrations,” [Christina Hole, Christmas and its Customs London Richard Bell. 1942 p25 ] “The first day of the Saturnalia shifted during the lifetime of Rome .. it began around the middle of December. . and continued until January first. In its midst was December twenty-fifth, the day, as the Romans calculated, when the sun was at its lowest ebb .. .” (E. W. Count’s “4000 Years of Christmas”, page 28.)
“Mesopotamia, is the very ancient Mother of Civilization. Christmas began there, OVER FOUR THOUSAND YEARS AGO, as the festival which renewed the world for another year. The ‘twelve days’ of Christmas the bright fires and probably the Yule log; the giving of presents, the carnivals with their floats, their merrymakings and clownings, the mummers who sing and play from house to house, the feastings; the church processions with their lights and song – all these and more began there centuries before Christ was born And they celebrated THE ARRIVAL OF A NEW YEAR!’ (‘4000 Years of Christmas”, Earl W. Count, p 20-21.)
As we see with most pagan religious observances …it begins in either Babylon or Egypt. The ancient Babylonians began the idea of New Year’s resolutions as a way to start the year off with a clean slate by returning borrowed items Among the pagan customs of New Year’s Day continued today is the tradition of making noise with firecrackers and/or gunshots at the beginning of the new year. From ancient Babylon, India, China, Russia and Siam, new year’s noisemaking was believed to frighten away evil spirits. “New Year’s Resolutions” comes from the ancient Roman custom of cleaning out one’s chimney on New Year’s Day to bring good luck and a fresh start. Deuteronomy 11:16 Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them;
When Moses was receiving the ten commandments on the mount, the Hebrews had his brother Aaron build them an idol, a golden calf. Aaron told them that these were the gods that brought them out of bondage and declared in their riotous celebration that “tomorrow is a feast to the LORD (that is, the True God.) We know that although they called it a feast in God’s honor – that God was not pleased with it – neither did He accept it as praise to Him. In fact, if it wasn’t for Moses’ pleadings God would have consumed the people in His hot displeasure. [Exodus 32] How do you think God feels about New Years Celebrations then?
Moses:”Who is on the Lord’s side?” Elijah:”How long halt ye between two opinions?”
Jesus: “No man can serve two masters.” Paul: “Be not deceived: God is not mocked.”
The God of the bible warns his people not to follow after the pagan gods and religious customs of the heathen. Just say “no” to their observance and seek to worship God in spirit and in TRUTH. We all refer to Jeremiah 10:2 Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. .
[A writer in 1633 said,] “If we compare our Bacchanalian Christmasses and New Year’s Tides with these Saturnalia and Feasts of Janus, we shall find such near affinity between them both in regard of time (they both being in the end of December and on the first of January), and in their manner of solemnizing (both of them being spent inrevelling, epicurism, wantonness, idleness, dancing, drinking, stageplays and such other Christmas disorders now in use with Christians, were derived from these Roman Saturnalia and Bacchanalian Festivals; which should cause all pious Christians eternally to abominate them,” [Ashton, A Right Merrie Christmas, p. 6]
We agree, “Christians should eternally hate/shun the pagan celebrations of this world”… we agree!
Joshua 24:14-16 Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the LORD, to serve other gods;